MTV plans to launch gay-themed channel

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The company that convinced millions of music fans they want their MTV is now targeting a cable channel to gay and lesbian viewers.

MTV Networks on Tuesday announced a February launch for Logo, a channel that will follow in the trail blazed by such shows as "Will & Grace," "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "The L Word."

The channel, in development for years, is being sold to advertisers as a way to reach gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender viewers, but MTV Networks executives said that Logo also would appeal to a broader audience.

Logo will be "honest, smart and above all entertaining," said Tom Freston, MTV Networks chairman and CEO.

More edgy fare, such as Showtime's "Queer as Folk" or "The L Word" would not fit the network's format, which will follow basic cable standards without being edited, he said. Showtime also is owned by Viacom, but because it is a subscription channel, its shows can be more explicit.

At its launch, 75 percent of Logo's programming will be acquired from outside sources, with the remainder composed of original series and specials, Freston said. Plans are still being worked out for the full lineup of programming, including news shows. Freston and MTV Networks Group President Judy McGrath said they intended to unveil the full lineup in July.

Freston and McGrath said Logo already had rights to 100 feature and television movies, including "Gods & Monsters," "Serving in Silence" and "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

Viacom has been toying with launching a gay-and-lesbian-themed network for several years, but Freston said the timing was never right. That's changed now, he added, although he added that Tuesday's announcement was unrelated to the nation's gay marriage controversy.

"Despite national progress in civil rights and increasing visibility, what has been missing is a home on TV this audience can call their own," he said.

The network will air initially in major urban markets and has received distribution commitments from cable operators Time Warner in New York and Adelphia in Los Angeles, Freston said.

As expected, conservative groups weren't welcoming the idea of MTV devoting an entire network to the gay community. "We do have concerns, not primarily because of the subject matter, but primarily because of MTV," said Melissa Caldwell, director of research for the Parents Television Council. "This is a network expressly targeting a very young demographic, mostly preteens. MTV has a tradition of being not very responsible in depictions of sexual activity of any kind."